Do you tweet?

    When I originally asked this question on Illuminate back in August 2018, I assumed that social media would be a form of communication that had as many detractors as it did supporters.

    It’s a divisive topic, and as I wrote back then: “Some think Twitter and social media is a great way of staying informed and engaging with people, while others see it as nothing more than a source of fake news and a place to have an argument.”

    I hold by that statement, but two years on I’d argue that social media, and more broadly digital communications, have become more important than ever before.

    People are spending more time online consuming news and information or searching for advice and guidance.

    Recent news reports reveal that many people are using lockdown as an opportunity to review their finances and pensions

    This is perhaps because they have more time on their hands, or possibly in response to concerns about what their financial future holds.

    Even as we start to emerge tentatively from lockdown, many people will still be cautious about venturing out to speak to experts for face-to-face advice.

    So being active online, providing insight and expert opinion, could prove to be a fruitful marketing channel for many advisers.

    When I previously wrote about this topic, I pointed to research by Accenture that found that nearly a third of consumers use information from social media when evaluating banking products and services.

    The report also revealed that almost a quarter said they were more likely to do business with a company they could interact with on social media.

    Last year Accenture carried out another survey among financial services customers worldwide and discovered that their expectation of how brands behave online is even more sophisticated.

    Overall Accenture found that consumers now want a more personalised online experience. 

    But they also want a relationship with a company that understands them and doesn't treat them the same as a different age group or demographic.

    The two standout points in the findings were:

    • Consumers want better integration across physical and digital channels – suggesting there's a great opportunity for firms that deliver a great face-to-face service to translate this into an online relationship; 
    • Consumers are willing to share data with their providers in return for better advice and more attractive deals.

    If you're still on the fence about the value of digital communications and social media in particular, now might be a good time to give it a go, or perhaps brush up on your strategy.

    Before you start, here are my top five tips:

    1. Understand your audience 

    Who are you are trying to communicate with and why?

    Accenture’s latest research spends a lot of time on personas – who is your audience and why would they be interested in what you have to say?

    Have an image of your perfect client in mind, perhaps an existing client, because this will help you make sure what you put on social media is relevant.

    2. Be yourself 

    Post content that makes you stand out from your competitors and is unique to you.

    This could be the analysis you provide, the spokespeople you choose or the way you tell your story.

    But don’t try and be something you’re not, like hitching your content to the latest but probably irrelevant hashtag. Stay true to your skills because your clients will resonate with it more.

    3. Keep it regular 

    Having regular streams of content helps build up expectation and a following among your readers, such as a monthly analysis or comment pieces.

    Try not to feature the same old content again and again, or tell the same stories as your competitors.

    Have a different point of view or provide some additional insight that makes your content more interesting.

    4. Make your content social 

    Your followers will see hundreds of posts every day, so use content that stands out on their social feeds, like great imagery, animated GIFs or video.

    This type of content is also more likely to get shared, and so will help grow your network.

    You don’t need to have massive budget as there are lots of free or cheap tools to create animations and memes, so have a play around with some ideas.

    5. Be joined-up 

    Your social media should be just one part of your marketing and communications activity, not a separate element.

    Things like brand look and feel, subject matter and even specific pieces of activity should be consistent across all channels, such as your website, newsletters and advertising.

    Your existing and potential clients might see your content on a number of different channels, so keep it joined-up. And always link from your social posts to your website wherever possible so people can find out more about you. 

    One final point; make sure you remain compliant.

    Check out the FCA’s social media guidelines, which aren’t particularly detailed, but the key point is content should be compliant no matter where it appears, so that means being clear, fair and not misleading.

    Be careful about risk warnings and the use of hashtags such as #Capitalatrisk or #Ad.

    Also, be careful what you share or retweet.

    Even if you didn’t write it originally, if it’s found not to be clear and fair, you could still be held responsible for communicating non-compliant content.

    Social media isn’t a perfect art and there is no 'right' way of doing it.

    If you’re still not sure where to start, set up a Twitter account and start following other people and firms and see what you like.

    At the moment, in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown, there are a lot of people wondering about their financial circumstances.

    Simply offering a bit of explanation and insight can go a long way to helping you build an audience online.

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